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Identity Theft Protection Tips

Find out how to protect yourself from identity theft.

"Identity Theft," defined as the use of your identity to open accounts, credit cards, or loans, is a very serious social scourge experienced by 47% of Americans resulting in losses of $714 billion in 2020. According to the Insurance Information Institute, "37% of consumers have been victims of application fraud and 38% experienced account takeovers." Despite these dire statistics, there are many effective steps you can take now - before you suffer identity theft.

It is possible to prevent many of the most common forms of identity theft. Compiled below are steps we strongly encourage every member of the UC San Diego community to take to prevent or lower the likelihood of identity theft.

Download a printable quick reference checklist of identity protection tips!

Immediate Actions for Those Impacted by the UCOP Accellion Data Breach

If you believe there was fraudulent use of your information as a result of the UC Office of the President (UCOP) “Accellion” breach and would like to discuss how you may be able to resolve those issues, please do the following:

  1. Contact Experian IdentityWorks at 877-890-9332
  2. File an FBI report and include the language "I believe this incident is a result of the University of California "Accellion" data breach": https://www.ic3.gov
  3. Report it to IDTheft@ucsd.edu (which is sent to UC San Diego Police and UCOP)

Credit Reports / Credit Monitoring

Sign Up with Experian

For those impacted by the UCOP data breach, UCOP is offering free Experian credit monitoring and identity theft insurance for one year. UCOP has notified everyone whose data was included in the breach by email and/or US mail. US mail notifications were sent at the end of June. Your notification will include a code, unique to you, to redeem your year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. 

Action

Get personal assistance from Experian by calling (866) 904-6220, 6 a.m. - 8 p.m. PDT Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. PDT or Saturday - Sunday.

Enable a Credit Freeze or Alert

A credit freeze is the single most powerful act you can take to prevent identity theft and its worst consequences. If your data was exposed, do it! 

Action

Protect your credit by enabling either a: 

  • Credit Freeze (recommended)
    • Prevents credit checks from taking place
    • Requires a “thaw” in order to transact business, such as signing a lease or taking out a loan
    • Must be placed separately with all three credit bureaus
  • Credit Alert
    • Requires lenders and businesses to perform a higher level of identity proofing before opening an account or providing a loan
    • Done once, the Alert propagates to all credit bureaus

Review Credit Reports

Checking your credit report allows you to see if any fraudulent activity has recently occurred. Normally, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each bureau once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. Through April 2022, however, you can request a free copy of your credit report every week.

Action

Order a credit report today online at AnnualCreditReport.com or by phone at 1-866-322-8228.

Notify Your Bank and Set Fraud Alerts

Many (though not all) financial institutions offer their own alerts that you can and should enable, including

  • Unusual Activity Alert
  • Changes in Profile Alert
  • Large Purchase Alert
  • Low Balance Alert

Some may also offer free access to credit reports and scores. 

Action

Contact your bank and other financial institutions to inquire about protections they offer.

Be a Good Advocate for Others

Many of your coworkers and family may be experiencing stress and anxiety due to the UCOP / Accellion data breach. The campus offers a number of programs you should consider taking advantage of:

Action

Demonstrate the best of the UC Principles of Community by being supportive and sharing your knowledge and experiences:

  • Share this page: identitytheft.ucsd.edu
  • Discuss any of the advice on this site that you’ve enacted and share your experiences
  • Support your colleagues by listening and demonstrating empathy

Protect Your Personal Accounts

Create a my Social Security Account

A free and secure my Social Security account provides personalized tools for everyone, whether you receive benefits or not. You can use your account to request a replacement Social Security card, check the status of an application, estimate future benefits, or manage the benefits you already receive.

Action

Create and claim your Social Security Administration account

Do this before a criminal (ie, not you!) does, and be sure to enable two-step login on the account.

Create an Identity Protection PIN for your IRS account

An Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a six-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number. The IP PIN is known only to you and the IRS and helps the IRS verify your identity when you file your electronic or paper tax return.

Action

Set your Identity Protection Pin. Again, do this before a criminal beats you to it!

Protect Your Mobile Phone Number

Make sure no one can "claim" your mobile phone number. “Porting” refers to someone claiming to be you while they move your cell phone number to a new service. While relatively rare, it can be very devastating and is a technique to get around two-step authentication. That being said, having two-step login enabled on your account will generally protect you.

Action

Contact your provider and ask about “porting protection.”

  • AT&T: Contact AT&T Global Fraud Management at 877-844-5584 to ask about porting protection (normal customer service channels generally will not know about this).

  • Cricket Wireless: Turn on account pin 

  • Sprint: If a collection agency has contacted you about an outstanding debt with Sprint or if you're aware of a Sprint account in your name and you have never had Sprint service, complete an Identity Theft Packet (Fraud Packet). (Note: Sprint has merged with T-Mobile)
  • T-Mobile: Dial 611 from a T-Mobile phone or call 1-800-937-8997 from any device to ask about port protection (Note: If a customer believes someone has made unauthorized changes to their account, call immediately). In addition, set a complex pin and multi-factor authentication to account. 

  • Verizon: Enable “number lock”.
Further protect your mobile phone number by never posting it (or a friend's) online. If you require a phone number to publicly broadcast, consider using a Google Voice phone number as a ‘burner’.

Use LastPass

Stop typing or memorizing passwords! Use the free campus password manager, LastPass!

A password manager is software that securely stores your passwords and enters them into web-based forms. It will even generate new passwords for you.

Any password manager is better than none, but UC San Diego licenses LastPass for the entire UC San Diego community: faculty, staff, and students.

LastPass offers:

  • Autofill web-based passwords
  • Very strong password generation
  • Optional browser extension / plugin
  • Two-step log-in to access
  • UC San Diego support
  • Identification of accounts that may have been compromised

Action

Set up your UC San Diego LastPass account.

Enable MFA Everywhere

Two-step login, also referred to as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA), is the single best way to protect your personal accounts. The implementation of two-step login at UC San Diego has reduced account compromises by over 90%. Why not do the same for your personal life?

Nearly every web site and app you use, and especially ones tied to your identity like banks and social media accounts, include a form of required or optional multi-factor authentication - meaning an additional code or link is sent to you via text or email as part of the login process. 

Action

Enable MFA on all your accounts. Instructions for many popular sites (Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, etc) are available in this article

Additionally, 2fa.directory provides an extensive directory of other services and whether they support two-step login. 

Beware of Scams

Be aware that criminal organizations are also engaging in extortion by threatening to release your personal information unless you pay them. These are NOT legitimate threats. Report these to idtheft@ucsd.edu

Action

Follow this advice for avoiding scams.

Do not:

  • Reply to spam text messages or phone calls
  • Supply your personal information to unknown sources 
  • Click on any links in text messages

Do:

  • Check your phone’s settings
  • Place your cell phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry
  • Check to see if your carrier offers a call-blocking service
  • Report spam texts to your wireless carrier
  • Send any suspicious or spam messages to 7726, which spells SPAM, so your carrier can investigate. Don’t worry, messages forwarded to 7726 are free and don’t count against your text plan

Monitor and Audit Your Identity Online

Various aspects of your life are publicly available online - some through various information you have posted (Facebook, LinkedIn etc), other data aggrated from various databases (address, legal actions, etc), and still other illicitly on the Dark Web (Social Security Number, account passwords, etc.)

Various paid services offer to remove personal information from the Web. It's questionable how effective these are, and they won't remove information from the Dark Web. 

Action

Exercise care in what you post online. Most popular social media sites let you choose if your posts and updates are visible publicly (ie, to the world) or limited to your network. Review social media accounts.  

Additional Resources